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November 30, 2011


Charles Hatfield

Marc, congratulations and thanks for this excellent work!

Mike Rhode

I've got my copy, and I'm looking forward to reading it. Congratulations.


Thanks, Mike! (And Charles, thanks for the blurb!) Apparently I'm going to be the last person to get a copy of my own book...

Jones, one of the Jones boys

The second-last, since I'll have to wait for an amazon delivery to the antipodes. Anyway, congrats! I'm keenly looking forward to chaps 5 & 6, which cover my own Morrison faves.

What do you personally think of the merits of Morrison's political positioning of superheroes, as you present it here? To me, it seems like an ad hoc rationalization of something dictated by the market: namely that in corporate-owned, shared-universe serial comics set in a close counterpart to our world -- e.g. DC -- there's no way folks like Superman can actually do much to change the world, for better or worse. There's a reason that the events of comics like The Authority or Marvelman don't happen in, say, Firestorm the Nuclear Man or West Coast Avengers...

Here's a thought: this Morrisonian rationalisation is actually typical of a particular phenomenon at Marvel/DC, viz. the diagetic explanation of extra-diagetic facts. Morrison's move here is not far removed from that thing in Avengers/JLA about how the DC Earth is bigger than Marvel Earth (because it's got all those extra made-up cities), or Superboy punching reality or whatever stupid thing they come up with next week.


Agreed on the first two points, but not the last. It's certainly a diegetic rationalization of something dictated by the market realities of an ongoing, shared-universe series, but the particular contours and values of that rationalization matter. Compare Morrison's explanation for why the JLA don't try to change the world (to give humanity the opportunity to improve its own condition, while protecting us from other tyrants) to, say, Warren Ellis's explanation of why superheroes haven't changed the world (because the Fantastic Four are Nazis). Ellis accepts the facile "superheroes are fascist" interpretation, even indulges in it, while Morrison looks for alternatives. They play within the same limits but find very different justifications for the rules of the game.

As to the last point, I would say that maybe Morrison's justifications fall under the same very broad umbrella of intradiegetic rationalizations, but they are pretty far removed from your other examples in that the market doesn't dictate that DC Earth should be bigger or that its continuity should change every five years--these are attempts to ontologize various editorial preferences, not to come up with moral and political justifications for some fairly inflexible genre/market conventions. That arbitrariness, and the recourse to ontological explanations for what amount to fairly trivial stylistic differences (see also: anything ever written about the "speed force," "chaos magic," etc.) are precisely what make these stupid things so stupid.

It occurs to me that Morrison brushes up against that kind of ontological moralism in JLA: Earth 2 when he suggests that evil can't lose on the Crime Syndicate's world, but then that's also the one place where he shows the JLA violating their own self-imposed code and trying to impose a new moral/political system on someone else, so either one can account for their failure. I certainly find his political justifications more compelling than the ontological ones.

Stephen Frug

Hey, this is out! I just dropped by your blog in a while (obviously, far too long), and saw this. Consider my copy ordered! w00t!

Stephen Frug

Hey, Marc, do you have an email address you could share? If you don't want to put it on the web, might I ask you to email me by attaching "sef23" (in a way that people but hopefully notspambots can parse) to "cornell.edu", so I can reply?


(Waiting for the book to arrive...)

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